RICHMOND, Va. -- The 2013 season was a special one for the University of Delaware men’s soccer team as the Blue Hens set a school record for wins and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

A year later, Delaware’s peers in the Colonial Athletic Association expect the Blue Hens to be pretty special once again.

For the first time in school history, the Delaware men’s soccer squad earned the No. 1 spot in the conference preseason rankings as the Blue Hens were picked as the favorite by a vote of the CAA head coaches Monday.

Delaware, led by head coach Ian Hennessy (at left) and eight returning starters, earned four first place votes and 58 total points to take the top spot in the preseason poll that was selected by the nine league head coaches. Defending CAA champion Drexel, which defeated the Hens on penalty kicks during the 2013 CAA Tournament semifinals, also pulled in four first place votes and was second overall with 49 points.

“Our group will realize not to put too much stock in pre-season rankings with not a ball kicked yet,” said Hennessy, last year’s NSCAA South Atlantic Region Head Coach of the Year. “They are very aware of the conference strength of the CAA, which has had 12 teams in the NCAA these past four years. If anything, I intend to use the rankings as positive motivation to remind the lads that being at the top simply means we are being chased harder. Quite often it is easier to chase rather than being chased.”

William & Mary was third in the preseason rankings with 44 points followed by league newcomer Elon (43), UNCW (39), Northeastern (33), Hofstra (29), College of Charleston (17), and James Madison (12). Northeastern also earned a first place vote.

Delaware will be looking to capture its first CAA title since winning the league crown in 2011 when the team posted a 13-6-4 mark and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, defeating Virginia in the opening round before suffering a heartbreaking one-goal loss to UCLA in the second round. This past season, the Hens set a school record for wins as part of a 14-5-1 campaign. Despite falling in the CAA semifinals, the Hens earned at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament and hosted St. John’s in the opening round, eventually falling 2-1 in overtime to the Redmen.

Among the nine returning starters are sophomore forward Guillermo Delgado, a 2014 Hermann Award candidate as the top men’s player in the nation. Delgado was the CAA Rookie of the Year and a second team All-American in 2013 when he led the league and ranked among the national leaders with 15 goals.

Also returning are All-South Atlantic Region goalkeeper Borja Barbero, second team All-CAA forward Roberto Giménez, All-South Atlantic Region defender Ignacio Martin, and CAA All-Rookie midfielder Jaime Martinez.

Delgado, Giménez, Martinez, and junior Joe Dipre all return after scoring a combined 30 of Delaware’s 45 goals a year ago when the Hens ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring with 2.25 goals per game.  
Traditionally regarded as one of the top men’s soccer conferences in the nation, the CAA had three teams selected for the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship in 2012 and 2013, and four teams in 2011.

Delaware will open preseason camp Aug. 14 and will play its first scrimmage Aug. 19 at home vs. Monmouth. The season opener is set for Aug. 29 vs. Sacred Heart at newly-named Stuart & Suzanne Grant Stadium.

2014 CAA MEN’S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES POLL: 1. Delaware (4 first place votes) - 58 points; 2. Drexel (4) - 49; 3. William & Mary - 44; 4. Elon - 43; 5. UNCW - 39; 6. Northeastern (1) - 33; 7. Hofstra - 29; 8. College of Charleston - 17; 9. James Madison - 12.